He paused, dipped a shrimp into the chili sauce and then put down his chopsticks. “Like his brother, Aldous was an optimist. . .” he said with something like disgust. “The metaphysical mutation that gave rise to materialism and modern science in turn spawned two great trends: rationalism and individualism. Huxley’s mistake was in having poorly evaluated the balance of power between these two. Specifically, he underestimated the growth of individualism brought about by an increased consciousness of death. Individualism gives rise to freedom, the sense of self, the need to distinguish oneself and to be superior to others. A rational society like the one he describes in Brave New World can defuse the struggle. Economic rivalry—a metaphor for mastery over space-has no more reason to exist in a society of plenty, where the economy is strictly regulated. Sexual rivalry-a metaphor for mastery over time through reproduction-has no more reason to exist in a society where the connection between sex and procreation has been broken. But Huxley forgets about individualism. He doesn’t understand that sex, even stripped of its link with reproduction, still exists-not as a pleasure principle, but as a form of narcissistic differentiation. The same is true of the desire for wealth. Why has the Swedish model of social democracy never triumphed over liberalism? Why has it never been applied to sexual satisfaction? Because the metaphysical mutation brought about by modern science leads to individuation, vanity, malice and desire. Any philosopher, not just Buddhist or Christian, but any philosopher worthy of the name, knows that, in itself, desire—unlike pleasure—is a source of suffering, pain and hatred. The utopian solution—from Plato to Huxley by way of Fourier—is to do away with desire and the suffering it causes by satisfying it immediately. The opposite is true of the sex-and-advertising society we live in, where desire is marshaled and blown up out of all proportion, while satisfaction is maintained in the private sphere. For society to function, for competition to continue, people have to want more and more, until desire fills their lives and finally devours them.” He wiped his forehead, exhausted. He hadn’t touched his food.
Michel Houellebecq – Atomised